RKI: The flu wave has started – earlier than usual – knowledge

The flu epidemic is rolling in Germany. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) retrospectively dates the beginning of the last week of October, as from the weekly acute respiratory disease report emerges. The results of a monitoring system in which samples from people with acute respiratory diseases are examined are decisive for the assessment. Various pathogens are routinely searched for, such as rhinoviruses, Sars-CoV-2 and influenza. At the end of October, the criteria for being able to speak of an influenza epidemic were met for the first time, according to the report.

Experts reported last week that the number of flu cases was increasing. “During the past few months, significantly more influenza reports have been sent to the RKI than in the pre-pandemic seasons at this time,” the report continues. This is probably also based on the recommendation made since the corona pandemic that symptoms in the respiratory tract should also be tested for influenza viruses.

According to the RKI, more than 2100 flu cases have been reported for the past week – and a total of around 8330 since the start of the season in October. A particularly large number of reports came from Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia. There are also reports of 13 outbreaks with at least five cases, for example in schools and kindergartens.

According to the RKI, the annual wave of flu usually began in January in the years before Corona and lasted three to four months. In the past two seasons, however, the pandemic and the anti-corona measures have changed the usual course significantly: In 2020/21 there was no flu epidemic worldwide. And in 2021/22 there was not a wave of the usual scale in Germany either, the number of registrations only rose after the Easter holidays and therefore very late.

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The number of influenza deaths varies greatly

Even if there were recent warnings of an impending heavy wave: The RKI and other experts emphasize that the course cannot be predicted. However, according to the RKI, it is “conceivable” that the population and/or an increased proportion of the population is susceptible to the pathogens, as stated on the institute’s website. Since the beginning of the corona pandemic, there has been concern about a double epidemic, i.e. the coincidence of many corona and influenza infections. That has not happened so far. Experts are now expecting more people with the flu in this country; however, it is unclear how severe the impact is.

In addition, the number of reports is only an excerpt of the actual situation. According to the RKI, the number of infections during a flu wave is estimated at five to 20 percent of the population, which corresponds to around four to 16 million people in Germany. Not everyone who is infected gets sick. “The number of deaths can vary greatly in the individual flu waves, from several hundred to over 25,000 in the 2017/18 season,” writes the RKI. A flu vaccination is recommended in Germany for people who are older than 60 years, pregnant women, the chronically ill, residents of retirement and nursing homes and people with an increased risk of infection at work.

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